Good enough for Pinkel

Coach pleased with Missouri football recruiting class

MIssouri head coach Gary Pinkel stands next to the SEC Championship trophy last December in Atlanta.

MIssouri head coach Gary Pinkel stands next to the SEC Championship trophy last December in Atlanta.

Gary Pinkel doesn’t pay attention to recruiting rankings. Never has, never will.

The Missouri head coach isn’t at all concerned the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class earned a No. 33 national ranking from ESPN and a No. 35 ranking from Rivals. Both recruiting websites listed Missouri’s class as 12th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference.

“We don’t reflect on any stars,” Pinkel said during a press conference following Wednesday’s National Signing Day that saw Missouri sign 28 recruits. “That’s never come up on any player we’ve ever recruited. I know some programs and staffs really look at that and they’re aiming to hit high in perception of their recruiting classes. We don’t ever do that and we’re pleased with the results with what we get and the kids that we want. These kids are the kids we wanted.

“If you look at our success — eighth-winningest BCS program in the nation in the last seven years, and our academic success, and they probably ranked us an average of 30th in recruiting — the numbers don’t match, they don’t fit. I would suggest if you do the math you can kind of figure that out. We’re pleased with our class, we have a lot of good players and we’re excited about getting them in here.”

Missouri’s biggest “get” looks to be DeSmet offensive lineman Andy Bauer, a former Mississippi commit ranked 99th in the nation by ESPN. Both Rivals and ESPN put Bauer as the eighth-best offensive lineman in the nation and the top overall recruit in the Show-Me State.

“There were a lot of things out there and we started winning and being successful again and so on and so forth,” Pinkel said when asked what influenced Bauer to flip his commitment. “I think he just changed his mind. Andy’s a good guy. He’s very talented, he’s very bright. We expect him to come in and be an outstanding player here.”

Bauer is one of eight in-state recruits nabbed by Missouri. That’s down from 11 a season ago. The Tigers received letters of intent from seven players from Florida, three from Georgia and Tennessee and two from Texas. Missouri got one player from Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Mississippi.

“Missouri’s the most important obviously, but it’s really important to have other places to go where you can get quality players,” Pinkel said. “Generally most schools — whether it’s California, whether it’s Texas, whether it’s Florida — they go to those real popular states with those huge numbers. It all gets back to evaluation. It’s good that we made some headway into the SEC recruiting areas, but all the areas are important to us.

“We’re more national now than we’ve ever been.”

Bauer is one of four four-star athletes Missouri signed according to ESPN. Brandon Lee, the 17th-ranked outside linebacker, enrolled early, while Lawrence Lee is the 56th-ranked wide receiver. Another receiver, 50th-ranked DeSean Blair, flipped his commitment at the last moment, opting for Missouri instead of Louisville.

“Real excited about today,” Pinkel said. “This is always an important day for every football program in the country because it’s really the future of Mizzou. I feel very, very good about our class.”

Missouri inked six defensive backs, six wide receivers and five offensive linemen Wednesday. Other positions saw three or fewer signees.

“You have goals by position and you want to make sure you hit the goals, and I thought we hit about everything we needed to hit,” Pinkel said. “It worked out real, really well.”

Missouri’s recruiting efforts ran the entire spectrum for this class.

It was tough sledding at first after Missouri went 5-7 in its inaugural SEC season in 2012.

“The challenges were really perception and based on talk radio, media, everybody, that our program for some reason was doomed,” Pinkel said. “That certainly hurt us, it did. The moral of the story is don’t have a bad season. We battled back through that. I think that had an impact on recruiting. I think we came out of it pretty good. Certainly there was a lot of negativity out there. That’s just the way things go. We just took care of our business and did the right thing.”

Then Missouri saw a spike after its 2013-14 season that culminated in a No. 5 national ranking, an SEC East title and Cotton Bowl victory against Oklahoma State.

“I think it’s been very positive,” Pinkel said. “… I think you also look at the big picture. The big picture isn’t just this year. We’ve won four divisional championships in the last seven years. We’ve had two years where we make a run and we win two games we’re in the national championship game. That’s my job to get that done. But we’re in the hunt. Most teams never even get in the hunt. We’ll work hard to try to get that done. We’re selling a number of NFL players, we’re selling our APR ranking, our graduation rate, we’re selling our wins and the consistency of winning that we have here. We have a lot of great things we sell here.”

That success in the SEC helped boost Missouri’s recruiting rankings from a season ago. ESPN tabbed Missouri at 38th last year while Rivals placed the Tigers at 48th.

While the 2014 class won’t stack up against the Alabamas and LSUs of the college football world, there’s no doubting Missouri’s rise in the recruiting game. Stars or not.

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